Five Tips To Avoid Earaches In The Air
(October 9, 2003)
Human ears were designed to handle only slow, measured changes in pressure. On the contrary, air travel takes us from sea level to mountain level in mere seconds. Unfortunately, this can create a painful imbalance between the air pressure in your ears and that of the outside atmosphere. Here are a few tips to help you cope:
1.) Valsalva Maneuver
Pinch your nostrils, take a mouthful of air, then, using only the muscles in your cheeks and throat, gently force the air into the back of your nose. This should open the Eustachian tube (the pressure equalizer between the middle ear cavity behind the eardrum to the rear of the mouth) and help your ears to pop. Beware! Don't blow too hard, and if you have a throat infection don't use this maneuver at all, as you risk pushing the infection to your inner ear.
Take An Antihistamine
If you are even remotely stuffy or have a cold take an antihistamine like Sudafed® at least an hour or two prior to your flight. The antihistamine will dry out your clogged Eustachian tube and allow it to work properly.
3.) Chew Gum Or Suck On Candy
This promotes swallowing, which prompts the Eustachian tube to open and relieve the pressure. For small children sucking on a bottle or pacifier will work.
Opening the mouth with the jaw stretched forward will help open the Eustachian tube to again relieve pressure
5.) Don't Sleep During Descent
When you're asleep, you swallow less, which means you have far less time to react to pressure changes.
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